Minus Space is excited to present the exhibition Michael Brennan: Late Spring. This is the established Brooklyn, New York-based artist’s third solo exhibition with the gallery and it will feature a suite of new small format oil paintings on canvas merging elements of both gestural and geometric abstraction.
Michael Brennan’s paintings address the legacy of reductive, abstract art over the past century, and specifically scrutinize and expand upon the restrictive orthodoxy of the monochrome painting tradition. In his new work, Brennan proposes an opening where the painterly mark and color inherent to it can stand on equal footing. Working in a restrained, icon-like format for the past decade, Brennan’s paintings also reflect upon an array of related topics, such as historical photography, early filmmaking, non-Western visual traditions, literature, and urban culture.
Brennan conceives each new work by first mixing a specific color, which then determines his particular approach to making the painting. He employs a rich array of singular hues in his paintings, including grays, blacks, blues, reds, and browns, which produce a broad array of visual effects ranging from the visceral to the sublime. For the first time, Brennan has also tinted his color mixtures with discreet amounts of silver – as opposed to the cold wax used in his earlier works – giving his new paintings an iridescent, temporal luster.
Working from his Gowanus studio, Brennan produces each painting in a single, uninterrupted session lasting up to several hours. No edits or additions are made to the paintings afterwards. He paints with a palette knife, not a brush, which he uses to both apply and remove paint from the surface of a smooth canvas support. By varying the pressure of his hand, the knife pushes, scrapes, and incises into the painting’s surface revealing a subtle array of hues and undertones as the tailored color mixtures begin to separate.
Brennan is focused on the notion of mark making, rather than a kind of gestural expression in his work. He magnifies this concern by juxtaposing painterly areas against precise geometric forms. Active areas of color are either entirely surrounded by rectilinear geometric frameworks or are placed above a pristine narrow stripe positioned at the bottom edge of the canvas. The geometric elements remain white and untouched, and function as kind of void or zero point that actives the adjacent painterly areas and projects their image toward the viewer.
About his new paintings, Brennan poses the seemingly straightforward, yet rigorous question, “What can I find between the white ground and the top coat of paint?” He continues, “I’m trying to find a meaningful mark and paint with nothing fixed in my mind. I’m simply looking for a compelling image in which the marks feel substantial, embedded, and allude to something lively and vivid, not static. I don’t just look at the marks when I’m painting, but also at the spaces in between them.”
Michael Brennan (b.1965, Pine Island, FL; lives Brooklyn, NY) has exhibited his abstract paintings and works paper nationally and internationally for the past three decades, including in the United States, Mexico, Belgium, Germany, Australia, and New Zealand. Here at the gallery, he previously mounted two very well received solo exhibitions – Grey Razor Paintings in 2014 and Knife Paintings in 2006. More recently he presented a suite of new paintings in our group exhibition Brant / Brennan / Zinsser in 2016. He also participated in our survey exhibition MINUS SPACE at MoMA/PS1 in 2008-2009.
His paintings and works on paper have been reviewed in publications, including The New York Times, Art in America, ARTnews, Art New England, The Brooklyn Rail, ArtNet Magazine, and NY Arts. Brennan is also an accomplished writer, and his reviews and essays have been published in The Brooklyn Rail, ArtNet Magazine, The Village Voice, The Architect’s Newspaper, American Abstract Artists, and Archives of American Art/Smithsonian Institution, among other publications.
Brennan’s work is included in collections, such as the Baltimore Museum of Art, National Gallery of Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Jose Museum of Art, American Express, General Dynamics, Daimler AG, and Sony Corporation. He holds an MFA from Pratt Institute and a BA from the University of Florida. He is currently Adjunct Associate Professor in the Fine Arts Department at Pratt Institute and has also taught at the School of Visual Arts, Hunter College, and Cooper Union (all NYC).